(Warning: This article includes Spoilers for the first volume of Batman Rebirth)
People love Batman. Nobody could argue that fact, but why do they love him? Most, Batman fans can be put into two groups. One group will tell you it’s his humanity, he is one of us, we can relate to him. The other group focuses more on the fact that he is just plain awesome – the dark knight who can take on Superman.
Those are actually, quite conflicting answers if you think about it. One side enjoys him because he is human, with all the flaws and limitations that come with that. The second group enjoys him because in their eyes he is a human god who beats people like Superman in his sleep and always has a contingency plan, so what is it? Should Batman be a god or a human?
One thing is for sure, current Batman writer Tom King has been doing his best to explore the human aspect of the Batman. But before we can understand his efforts to humanize Batman and before we can discuss why his efforts are so important, we have to remember what came just before him.
What Scott Snyder And Geoff Johns Left
There were two writers who defined how readers saw Batman and who intentionally or not reinforced the god-like and mystical aspects of Batman, almost setting the stage for Tom King.
Scott Snyder’s run on Batman kept on teasing a magical aspect to the Joker and at the end killed both Batman and Joker to immediately bring them back with a Lazarus Pit equivalent substance. Scott Snyder’s Batman had a mystical touch, which was mostly achieved through Scott Snyder’s writing style and his focus on Gotham’s history and architecture, if you never noticed, Gotham’s architecture is very Gothic and mysterious. A lot of dark corners for mysticism to hide.
On the other hand, we had Geoff Johns on Justice League who made Batman a literal god. In his Darkseid War storyline, Batman got access to the Mobius Chair and became the god of knowledge. Johns gave fans a literal representation, of how some fans perceive Batman. A Dark Knight who was capable of things some fans quite honestly think he is anyway. His god-like knowledge gave him the ability to see future outcomes and prepare for them. Nothing could surprise or shock this Batman, except the mystery of who the Joker is.
How Tom King Made Batman Human Again
Now after Geoff Johns showed fans a Batman who was literally a god and Scott Snyder’s Batman came back from the dead. Tom King saw the opportunity to bring Batman back to his roots. Not the man who beats gods, but a man who can stand next to them, because of his judgment and humanity.
The way King approached this was quite brilliant. He immediately confronted Batman with something a normal human can’t just stop – a plane crash. After a plane flying over Gotham is shot down Batman tries to keep casualties as low as possible by getting onto the plane and changing its course to the Gotham bay. He manages to change the course saving the city and the people in the plane who will survive the crash.
Once more Batman has saved the day without the help of the Justice League whose help he did request before taking this daunting task onto himself but who had to deal with their own problems. But Batman isn’t Superman and Bruce and Alfred acknowledge that while Batman saved the day and did something seemingly impossible, he won’t survive the landing.
A task like catching a plane is for someone like Superman nothing special but for Batman, while he still can save the people. He himself has to sacrifice his life on a task Superman does with his arm tied to his back. It shows a perfect balance of Batman being not any less of a hero than Superman but still making it clear that he is a mortal man.
Now luckily Batman was saved by two new superheroes, Gotham and Gotham girl. These two where Superman type characters with a fun twist. Gotham and his sister Gotham girl were inspired by Batman after he saved their parents from being shot in an alley. Now Batman realized these two could be the heroes Gotham deserves. The heroes Gotham will need when similar situations arise.
It sadly didn’t turn out that way with Gotham being mentally broken by the Psycho Pirate and turned against the city, but here comes a defining moment of Tom King’s Batman.
He calls the Justice League. Some writers and fans are very obsessed with the fact that Batman doesn’t need any help, especially when it comes to the Justice League if anything they need his help seems to be the attitude. Furthermore, after Gotham beats the Justice League we have a final standoff between Gotham and Batman. Tom King could have had Batman pull some magic solution out of his belt to show how he is better than all the other Justice League members who failed but luckily he didn’t. Instead, Batman offers his life to save his city, because he is Gotham if you want to destroy the city you just have to destroy him.
It showed once again his willingness to sacrifice himself for his city, for his people while also acknowledging he has his limits. He can’t save the world or his city from every threat and he doesn’t have a plan or solution that can save him at every moment. Now before Gotham could kill Batman his sister intervened which lead to his quite tragic death.
Conclusion: The Importance Of Batman Being Human
Tom King understands what Batman represents, he understands Batman isn’t just a Superhero, he is a hero. He represents our real life heroes; Cops, Soldiers, firefighters and many others who serve the public and risk their lives for us. Batman might seem a little suicidal in this storyline, but if you think about it. What would you call a firefighter who runs into burning buildings? Batman almost dies twice in this storyline because he is just a mortal man. Him being so close to death doesn’t make him weak or less of a hero if anything it shows how much of a hero Batman is. It should remind us the reader how heroic some of the man and women are in our world, who walk the line of life and death so we can sit at home and enjoy our Comics.
Also just because you have a very human Batman doesn’t mean you can’t have some “because he is Batman” disappearing moments.